Charles steps up for Montini
Montini sophomore Taylor Charles is putting Chicagoland on notice.
The 6-foot-2 athletic forward's game continues to evolve, and one of the area's top rim protectors may be becoming one of its best scorers.
"It's just confidence and knowing when my team needs a leading scorer," she said after scoring a team-high 19 points Wednesday night. "It's something I am trying to do for my team, stepping into that role."
Charles third-quarter performance created separation from an aggressive and talented Argo squad and helped Montini bank a 57-44 nonconference victory in Lombard.
When the Argonauts pulled to within one point of the Broncos in the third quarter, Charles scored 5 straight points to lead a 7-1 run to end the third, a quarter in which she scored 12 total points as her team gained a 45-38 advantage.
Montini never looked back.
"I was really looking for my shot," she said. "I knew my team needed points and I wanted to do whatever I could to score."
Argo sophomore Breana Dugans scored all 6 of her team's points in the final quarter and finished with a game-high 24. But it wasn't enough.
Argo, which fell to 22-9, fought to the finish but couldn't muster enough offense against a re-energized Broncos' defense.
"We stalled out offensively," Argonauts coach Dan McCarthy said. "We got careless in our half-court offense. Some costly turnovers there resulted in easy transitions the other way. If you are going to come in here and try to beat this team, you're going to have to be near perfect offensively."
Both teams turned the ball over plenty early, combining for 15 first-quarter giveaways. But it was host Montini that converted from the floor.
Broncos sophomore guard Sophie Sullivan tallied 7 of her 13 points in the first quarter as her team took a 16-9 lead.
A hot start to the second saw Montini build that lead to 27-13, but Argo was not going anymore.
The visitors forced 8 second-quarter turnovers and took a major bite of that lead with a 15-4 run to close the half down just 31-28.
"I think that was our (lack of) focus," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "It goes back to being focused and doing things the right way. They were just dumb turnovers: moving your feet, the ball coming out of your hand."
The teams traded blows in the third quarter until Charles took over.
And four points from Taris Thornton and a late 3 from Sullivan sealed the deal for Montini, which finished the regular season 27-4.
Nichols and company are hoping they can put it all together before the IHSA Class 3A tournament begins. Montini, the top seed in the Hampshire sectional, opens postseason play next Wednesday in the Illinois Math and Science Academy regional.
"It's consistent effort. We have moments that we just take plays off," Nichols said. "Some of that is youth, some of it is not demanding (effort) of each other. ... So we just gotta be better, less mental lapses and work harder in practice."
The young Broncos also celebrated their two seniors -- Sydney Prochaska and Alena Anderson -- before and after the game
"The Montini program is like a family. Every single one of these girls has made a difference in my life," Prochaska said. "Whether it's inside basketball or outside basketball, everybody here loves each other in a certain way and I think it's awesome how close our team is."